Foodborne illnesses are a major concern for the health of our nation. According to the Washington Post, contaminated foods sicken an estimated 48 million Americans and kill 3,000 each year.
Food safety and consumer awareness is of utmost importance to preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses. Unfortunately, Americans suffer from what is referred to as “message fatigue” – knowledge of potential food safety precautions and product recalls, but a lack of affirmative action to protect themselves against the foodborne illnesses.
Combating and reducing “message fatigue” can go a long way in reducing the number of foodborne illness outbreaks – so much so that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has convened a committee of food safety and communications experts devoted to exploring ways to break through the “communication challenges” associated with illness outbreaks and product warnings and recalls.
According to an article at MedPage Today, Americans are highly aware of product warnings and recalls. For instance, Salmonella saintpaul registered with 93% of Americans, while 81% reported knowing about ground beef recalls in the 2 years prior. And nearly all Americans – 93 percent – were aware of a peanut product recall in 2009, according to a 2009 study conducted by two researchers who participated in the FDA committee meeting.
Unfortunately, many Americans do not take the appropriate steps necessary to protect themselves and their families from foodborne illnesses, despite their awareness of the risk. Accordingly, the committee discussed ways in which the FDA could improve communication, better identify research, disseminate information, assess consumer inaction, and differentiate between nutrition and food issues. The committee also explored ways to make technical nutritional information, such as Percent Daily Value (%DV), more understandable and useful to consumers.
Increasing awareness of foodborne illnesses and preventing “message fatigue” requires a balancing act between providing consumers with adequate information and avoiding information overload caused by serial warnings.
Because many foodborne illnesses are caused by tainted produce, new food safety laws aimed at improving produce safety were recently implemented pursuant to the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, which was designed to protect the public from foodborne illnesses by holding everyone in today’s global food chain responsible and accountable for controlling hazards that can cause foodborne illnesses.
The new laws propose stringent new standards for fruit and vegetable producers and food manufacturers that would require produce farmers to ensure that their crops are not contaminated with animal waste or tainted water. As a result of the new rules, the some speculate that produce farmers will be urged to build fences around their crops to keep out animals and to provide adequate restrooms and hand-washing stations for their field workers.
The Chicago product liability attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are committed to product safety and consumer rights. Contact one of our Chicago food safety attorneys at (312) 600-0000 for more information on preventing foodborne illness and what to do if you fall victim to a foodborne illness as a result of contaminated food.